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A New Zealand weightlifter who has participated in men’s competitions in the past will become the first transgender competitor to qualify to join the Tokyo 2020 women’s weightlifting team.
“I am grateful and humble for the kindness and support I have received from so many New Zealanders,” Laurel Hubbard, 43, said in a statement, according to the BBC.
The report indicated that in 2015 the International Olympic Committee changed its rules to allow transgender athletes to compete as long as their testosterone levels are below a certain level and are maintained for a year. The decisive criterion – a maximum value of 10 nanomoles per liter of testosterone – is at least five times as high as that of a biological woman.
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Some critics insist that Hubbard, who moved eight years ago, will still have an unfair advantage if she competes in the women’s super heavyweight category in August.
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The Guardian reported, citing IOC guidelines, that athletes who switch from male to female can compete without surgically removing their testicles. The paper reports that some recent studies show that the power gained during male puberty can linger.
Hubbard lifted 628 pounds in two lifts to qualify in the women’s super heavyweight division. She won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships and gold at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa. She competed in the 2018 Commonwealth Games but suffered a serious injury that set her career back.
Kereyn Smith, CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, said it was clear that Hubbard met all the criteria to compete in Tokyo.
“We recognize that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue that requires a balance between human rights and fairness on the field,” said Smith. “As a New Zealand team, we have a strong Manaaki (hospitality) culture and inclusion and respect for everyone.”
Belgian Anna Vanbellinghen, who is likely to face Hubbard, said the New Zealander’s presence was “like a bad joke” for female participants.
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“For some athletes, life changing opportunities are being missed – medals and Olympic qualifications – and we are powerless. Of course, this debate takes place in a broader context of discrimination against transgender people and therefore the question is never free from ideology. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report